Redshirt junior cornerback Xavier (pronounced: Zay-vee-er) Rhodes out of Florida State (6′ 2″, 217 lbs.) is a big, physical corner who punched his ticket to the NFL after FSU’s Orange Bowl victory over Northern Illinois. He believes that he has done all he can in college and now he is ready to take his talents to whichever team decides to take him in April’s draft. In a draft that does not feature a bevy of cornerback talent, maybe that was a good choice. Maybe he could have risen his stock a little if he would have stayed the extra year in Tallahassee. But, those questions cannot be answered, and I, along with many NFL teams, am A-OK with that.
I will now evaluate Rhodes based on these criteria: Agility, Run Defense, Awareness, Range, Coverage, Tackle, Ball Skills, Speed, Burn Rate, and Health.
Rhodes is not the most agile corner in the world, but he is agile enough to be a good corner in the NFL. He does get juked sometimes. An example of a time where that has happened is at the 5:33 mark of the USF/Miami video. It is in the Miami portion and Rhodes is in man coverage, covering Miami WR Rashaun Scott throws a juke on a slant and go route that throws Rhodes and allows Scott to get behind the coverage and open for Stephen Morris to hit him with a deep pass. Scott drops the ball on the play, but it still makes my point. Rhodes sometimes lets his hips lock up, but that can easily be improved by some yoga or hip flexibility drills. 8.5/10.0
I feel as if Rhodes reads the play for too long. There were plays throughout his tape when he would get locked up with the receiver and then try to read the play. He would then not be able to react to the run in time, and sometimes it would get past him for a big gain. When any receiver tries to lock up with him and block him, he should immediately throw a move to get the guy off of him, because it’s a run. That made it look like he could have had more tackles. He is a solid run defender when he does shed his blocks. He is a power hitter and usually a fundamental tackler. 8.0/10.0
Rhodes has pretty good awareness. He can see what play is coming typically, and adjusts himself accordingly. FSU played a lot of soft coverage (meaning he starts with the receiver having a 5-10 yard cushion), which allows him to see more of the play and adjust more and faster. Rhodes recognizes play action very well and he rarely bites, if ever. FSU also runs a lot of man (some of which started out in the soft coverage), which helps out with his awareness, since he just has to react to what his man is doing. He was not often used as a blitzer, but when he was, he was committed to the QB, usually, and didn’t try to read the play. As one can see in the Miami play, he can fall victim to route changes (that pass was on a slant and go route, as I stated above). But overall good awareness. 8.5/10.0
Rhodes possesses very good range. He has the ability to see the ball and his reactions are great, but sometimes he has to pull off of his man to try to make plays. An example of that is in the Wake Forest/Clemson tape at the 4:49 mark, Rhodes has to pull off of his man and try to knock the ball away from Clemson TE Brandon Ford. He misses and Ford scores, but the fact that he almost knocked the ball down impressed me. His angles on those plays aren’t the greatest but it’s not his fault that he has to make up slack for his teammates. He takes great angles on run plays and is usually in on or near the play unless he’s in deep coverage. He keeps up with receivers when the ball is in the air and he closes very quickly on those. 8.75/10.0
Rhodes is a very skilled cover corner. Coverage is definitely one of his best assets, and the team that drafts him. When he’s in coverage, QB’s shouldn’t usually throw to receivers that he is covering, since they are not usually open and Rhodes is a decent ball hawk, but they do anyway. Rhodes is very physical and always on his man. He is better in man coverage than in zone, but he is still very good in both. 9.0/10.0
Rhodes is a solid tackler. He is a power hitter, as I mentioned earlier, and his only flaw is that there are times when he just goes for the huge blow and doesn’t wrap up, but that’s a problem a lot of DBs have, even at the pro level. He delivers fierce hits, doesn’t let receivers or running backs break many tackles, and is usually a good form tackler. Finished with 112 tackles in 2012, 39 of which were in 2012. 8.5/10.0
Rhodes is very good at attacking the ball at the highest point and knocking the ball down or picking the ball off. He had 3 picks in 2012 (8 total in his career) and 7 other passes defended (23 in his career), also forced one fumble. He attacks the ball when it gets to his receiver. That’s the best way I can put it. 9.0/10.0
Rhodes is fast. His 40-yard dash time currently is 4.55, fast enough to keep up with just about anybody in pads. Definitely something that NFL teams will like about him. Surprising with speed like that, that he is considered a second round prospect. 9.0/10.0
Where coverage is how well the receiver does preventing the QB from throwing the ball to the WR Rhodes is covering, Burn Rate is how well Rhodes (or any other corner for that matter) does when the ball is thrown to the WR he is covering. And thanks to his speed, ball skills, and tackling ability, among many other factors, Rhodes has a great burn rate. Basically, he doesn’t get burned often. There are times (The Miami play) where he does, but usually he’s right there with his man making a play. He’s there breaking up passes, picking off passes, and not allowing his receiver to catch the ball. This is a great skill for him to have going forward. 9.0/10.0
Rhodes missed the Savannah State and Maryland games in 2012 (I cannot find the actual injuries) and this may be something to watch. Maybe it won’t be, but until I know the actual injuries, one cannot be sure. I’m sure that NFL teams know what the injuries were (and if anyone knows what they were, it would be awesome if they could tell me in the comments below), and that they are not worried about them being an issue. 8.0/10.0
Rhodes’ overall score from me is an 8.63/10.00. I said this earlier, but I am very surprised that Xavier Rhodes is a second round prospect. He is a solid tackler, fast, and has very good coverage skills. I really like Rhodes and I believe that he will be off of the board by the end of the first round. Now where exactly do I think he will go? I don’t think that many teams in the top half of the first round will be looking to take a cornerback that high, so look for him to be hanging around in the latter half to quarter of the first round. I would take him as a first rounder and not let another team grab him in the second round. I think he’ll make a great corner in the NFL. The team that I think will take him: the New England Patriots at #29. The Patriots need a deep threat wide receiver more than anything, so they’ll be looking for that first, but I don’t think they’ll find it in the draft. I see them taking Rhodes and letting him learn behind Kyle Arrington, Aqib Talib (who I believe they will re-sign), and Alfonzo Dennard. And if Dennard is sentenced to prison time for assualting an officer and resisting arrest (he was found guilty, sentencing is set for April 11), then it will be even more likely that the Patriots will go after a corner in the draft. They could also turn him into a safety like they did with Devin McCourty.
Let me know what you think in the comments below and follow me on Twitter! @J_Vinton52
Next, I’ll be previewing Sheldon Richardson, DE, Missouri!